City-sized ships, anglerfish, girls … und panzer?
I’ll just say it: the girls with guns genre is pretty well-represented in anime. Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja were all stylish depictions of girls with guns that managed to present some mature themes and relationships while not skimping on the stylish action, and though the trilogy has long since ended, it’s not like anime’s trying to get away from gun-toting female protagonists or anything. Aria the Scarlet Ammo and the upcoming Sword Art Online arc are evidence enough. But recently, another spiritual trilogy seems to have emerged in a related genre, which I can only informally dub “military moe,” starting with Strike Witches and Upotte!, and rounded off by the recent anime season’s conclusion of Girls und Panzer.
Nishizumi Miho is a new student at Oorai Academy. Away from her family for the first time, she is excited to get a fresh start and new outlook on life, and happily begins her first day of school. At the academy, she immediately befriends Takebe Saori and Isuzu Hana, two girls in her class. Later, the student council puts on a presentation for the students in hopes of resurrecting the Tankery [Sensha-do] Club, a special group that involves competing in tank battles against other schools. Though many of the girls are interested in joining, including Saori and Hana, Miho seems detached throughout the entire performance. Turns out Miho is an extremely talented tank operator who comes from a highly esteemed family in Tankery. In fact, Miho left her earlier school, Kuromorimine, the most elite Tankery academy, to attend Oorai, giving up her position as flag tank commander and isolating her from her family. Since Oorai has no experience with Tankery, Miho reluctantly joins at the request of the student council president, and begins her arduous task of assembling a competent Tankery club with little resources and a group of willing but inexperienced members.
Though Strike Witches, Upotte! and Girls und Panzer (GuP) are all independent series developed by different authors and anime studios, they all involved firearms of sorts. Strike Witches focused on magic and aerial combat, and Upotte! on the peculiar idea that the moe girls were really guns. GuP pushes a series that is a smidge closer to something that could fit into real life, though not by much. The idea that girls can just have tank battles without risk of serious injury or death was something I had to struggle with throughout the series, especially when the girls were actively repairing their tanks on the fly while in combat, and other similar situations. So before you step into GuP, just be aware that you’ll have to take it for what it is, even in the absence of something blatantly absurd, like barefoot girls with magically-triggered animal ears and swishy tails.
Having given that lengthy disclaimer, GuP is a blast. With only 12 episodes to go through an entire Tankery tournament, you can bet your britches that the series is chock-full of action and strategy on the battlefield, though with enough character building and general team-improving between the tournament rounds to show progression of the characters in general. The emphasis, of course, is on Miho and her group of closest friends, since they compose the crew of Oorai’s flag tank, but there’s a healthy variation of characters that round out the cast.
In fact, the character design is quite splendid, with each one displaying an individual personality and unique look, which is sometimes difficult to do in series with large casts. The separating of schools into different ethnic backgrounds helps with the individuality, and gives the show a few excuses (and sometimes trolly fansubs) to poke some lighthearted fun at the history of tank warfare.
The first thing you’ll probably notice, however, is the huge amount of CG. In the skirmishes, tanks take most of the screen real estate, so it’s unsurprising, to say the least. The art is vibrant and colorful, keeping in line with the lighthearted tone of the series, though there are a few times where the tanks seem to glide a little too smoothly for large, hulking machines on soft, uneven ground. The CG animation seems a bit choppy at times as well, and not always for dramatic effect. It doesn’t detract much from the experience, though; frantic moe girls and tank shells will be the main focus for most viewers.
It’s also worth noting that the soundtrack does a fantastic job of getting you into GuP’s groove. It’s upbeat, and feels like something from a lighthearted military comedy like M*A*S*H. It’s definitely up there with a few of my favorite accompanying soundtracks like Card Captor Sakura and Lucky Star. The tracks are remarkably appropriate throughout the setting, and other’s are just plain catchy.
The series has two “character introduction” episodes that aired during the season, though they contain only recycled animation throughout the series. These episodes can safely be skipped, and are even denoted as .5 and not given a real number; there were some airing issues during the season that forced these filler-esque episodes to be released instead of the real content. I’d wager this is why the last two episodes were pushed so late to air, but it’s mostly irrelevant now that the whole season is available. If you end up enjoying this series, make a note that there was a three month gap between episode 10 and episodes 11+12, then judge whether you could have stayed sane during the wait.
Girls und Panzer offers a plenty if you aren’t adverse to blatant moeblob. It doesn’t come coupled with ecchi like the other two military moe series I mentioned (Strike Witches and Upotte), but it still feels somewhat service-y due to the large cast of characters and diversified appeal/trope-coverage. The tournament style guarantees plenty of action and a diverse cast that doesn’t pin identities to game-bending idiosyncrasies.
Plus, two of Oorai’s tank crews are the Duck Team and the Turtle Team. How cute is that? Panzer vor!
Girls und Panzer – Character Ranking
- Nishizumi Miho
- Reizei Mako
- Kadotani Anzu
- Takebe Saori
- Isuzu Hana